OK, so this CD includes the whole of the Versatile Impressions album, which was their last ABC album and may well not be considered their best work. But this is a whole lot more! In fact the first twelve tracks are vintage Curtis, at the height of his composing and musical powers. Almost all of these titles have not seen the light of day since their first vinyl release and several have never been released at all. This has taken a team of us, using Peter Burns' comprehensive discography, to piece together the various locations for the tapes - and we didn't have to use one disc dub in the end, although it came perilously close for one title!
Here's the run-down, all in matrix number order and therefore in recording date order:-
1. Can't You See. This is the one that went down to our mastering rooms for disc dubbing, just before I had a conversation with Peter Burns, who reminded me that this track was originally on the first album The Impressions (CDKEND 126). Peter once owned a copy of this impossible-to-find rarity, sadly since liberated from his collection in the swinging 60s. This set the tape detectives to work to see if by any chance this track was simply left, unlogged, on the original album master. Sure enough, with due diligence by Lynn Kerman at Universal Studios, there it was languishing as track seven on side one of the original master tape, having been bumped down the track listing by It's All Right. This is one of Curtis' finest performances and, in superb stereo, it demonstrates his unique style of guitar playing that can only be reproduced, so the story goes, by re-tuning the guitar to the black notes of the piano.
2. Love Is A Mystery. This comes from another extremely rare album called Shindig which was released to cash in on the famous American TV show. It was supposed to be a live album, and for all I know maybe some of the tracks were, but this one certainly wasn't. We could have used the original stereo master with fake applause from the original album, but we thought you would prefer to hear this without these fake effects, albeit in mono. No stereo mix without the applause was made.
3. Emotions (Won't You Let Me Cry). This is the earlier version of this song which appeared first on a Charly album. We feature a different unissued take here.
4. You'll Want Me Back.
5. Never Too Much Love.
6. Never Could You Be.
7. (Man Oh Man) I Want To Go Back.
8. This Must End.
9. I Need A Love.
10. You've Got Me Runnin'.
11. We're Rolling On Parts 1&2.
When I worked up at EMI in the mid-60s, my colleague Rod Duncombe, then ABC label manager, enlisted my help in compiling a follow-up to the Impressions' Big Sixteen album. We included the most obvious A-sides that weren't on the first album and this left some room to indulge ourselves with some rare B-sides and even a previously unissued title that turned up disguised as I Need You. We've gone better than Big Sixteen Vol 2 here and added two more rarities. As it happens, master tapes for You'll Want Me Back and Never Too Much Love were subsequently lost at ABC and we have used EMI's master tapes, meticulously preserved and logged by Abbey Road staffers. Four of the others have been freshly remixed into stereo from the original 4-track masters. This Must End is the original stereo mix from the US Best of the Impressions LP and You've Got Me Runnin' is the original US mono 45 master. This Must End must rate as one of Curtis' best songs, right up there with I've Been Trying, I'm So Proud and People Get Ready - the highlight of this CD!
12. Don't Cry My Love.
A poignant anti-war song written with Oscar Brown Jr. This deserved a better reception than it received on their penultimate ABC single. This is a new stereo remix from the original 4-track master.
13. Just Before Sunrise.
14. East Of Java.
These were both recorded for the film "Krakatoa, East Of Java", which unfortunately didn't set the box-office alight and resulted in their last single for ABC.
16. All My Trials.
17. The Look Of Love.
18. Thanks To You.
20. Once In A Lifetime.
21. Puppy Love.
22. Bring A Little Water Sylvie.
23. Oo You're A Livin' Doll.
24. Fool On The Hill.
25. Devil In Your Soul.
26. This Is The Life.
These comprise the whole of the last session, some of which were released on their swan-song ABC album. They were all recorded on 8-track, which was the only time the Impressions were recorded in this format for the label. Five of them were not released at all, but not because they were of any less quality than those selected for Versatile. In fact Thanks To You is the best of the bunch, and is the self same song Jerry Butler part wrote and recorded back in 1960 for Vee-Jay. This version sports Sam Gooden in his finest Jerry Butler soundalike voice, duetting with Curtis - superb.
If you're a Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions fan you will need this CD. It completes their ABC-Paramount story, but better still contains some of their very finest recordings, none of which can be obtained elsewhere on CD. It also sports the impeccable sound you have come to expect from the quality controllers who deliver you "The Golden Age of American Rock'n'Roll" series.
By Trevor Churchill